Out of Work Due to COVID, This Tour Guide Skilled Up and Never Gave Up

18 Dec 2020 Posted in ⟨Stories⟩

As a self-employed professional in the highly affected tourism industry, Alan Liu felt the tough effects of COVID-19 first-hand. However, refusing to let these setbacks dictate his future, he jumped at the opportunity to upturn his downtime through upskilling!

Having been in the travel and destination management industry for over 30 years, Alan Liu has journeyed through various roles from limousine driver to business development manager, building up a wealth of experience that cannot be easily matched. Today, Alan is a self-employed tour guide with a rather unique specialty – Customised Singapore Experiences for visiting business executives.

“It’s not a cookie-cutter type of excursion programme. It really depends on what customers are interested in, so my work is never mundane. My customers are typically discerning, well-travelled, successful and intellectually curious,” he explained. “The best part of my job is having the opportunity to share with them about Singapore and go deeper behind the scenes through insightful discussions. It’s so rewarding for me to see the ‘Aha!’ expressions on their face when they discover something new!”

Coping with the Outbreak

When the pandemic descended on our shores, Singapore’s tourism industry took a brutal hit as prolonged restrictions on cross-border travel meant major financial losses.

“Basically, the business just went out of the door. There was no adapting, it was just a total shut down with no way to continue operating. Most of us didn’t know how to react, but mentally we knew we were going to be in for a hard time,” reflected Alan.

This was not Alan’s first encounter with a pandemic, having witnessed the impacts of the 2003 SARS outbreak. While it was a difficult time, he learned valuable lessons from the past and adjusted his lifestyle accordingly to ensure he can still adequately support his family. Even so, Alan saw this recent pandemic as a greater challenge, as the end of the tunnel is still not in sight.

Maximising the Downtime

Apart from dutifully helping with housework, Alan turned to upskilling to make full use of his newfound free time. Recognising that there is no better time than now, he did not hesitate to set off on his learning journey.

“I have always been aware of the idea that we need to upgrade ourselves. However, because of work commitments and inertia, and because things were okay, there was no urgency to take the first step and say ‘Let’s do it!’ We are very fortunate to have the financial resources and lifelong learning infrastructure in the country for us to upskill. The biggest challenge is the first step!” he said.

And so Alan took his first step, starting off with a Food and Beverage Safety course with NTUC LHUB, before moving on to SkillsFuture for Digital Workplace (SFDW) and office productivity courses such as PowerPoint and Word.

“I’ve always been sceptical of the motivations of private, for-profit training institutes, so when I saw that NTUC LearningHub was a not-for-profit training arm of NTUC, it was quite obviously a better choice to me,” he said.

We are very fortunate to have the financial resources and lifelong learning infrastructure in the country for us to upskill. The biggest challenge is the first step!

“I was very fortunate that most of my trainers have been very competent in their domain knowledge,” Alan enthused. “I could tell that my SFDW trainer, Miss Bernice Lim, made the effort to make everyone comfortable, which encouraged us to want to learn more since it was a positive experience. I was very impressed with their training techniques, passion and enthusiasm exhibited, and desire for trainees to learn as much as possible.”

“I was very fortunate that most of my trainers have been very competent in their domain knowledge,” Alan enthused. “I could tell that my SFDW trainer made the effort to make everyone comfortable, which encouraged us to want to learn more since it was a positive experience. I was very impressed with their training techniques, passion and enthusiasm exhibited, and desire for trainees to learn as much as possible.”

While Alan is fortunate to have maintained his financial stability so far, he managed to receive a little extra help in the form of the NTUC Training Fund for Self-Employed Persons, which provided up to $11 allowance for every hour of training.

“It might not be a big amount, but it will be very helpful to many. Even if it doesn’t help immediately, it is a very effective push factor. Since many of us are currently faced with zero income, if we can receive a little help while learning new skills, what excuse is there not to do it?” Alan asserted.

Putting His Skills into Practice

As Alan is currently out of work, the knowledge he has gained from his training might not have an immediate impact on his job, but he has discovered unique ways in which they have been helpful in his daily life.

For instance, by becoming more familiar with technology trends, Alan finds himself less anxious about the inevitable and constant changes with the digital transformation of society. The courses also gave him the opportunities to network with fellow motivated learners, many of whom have led amazingly rich professional lives.

“Such networks helped provide mutual support among those of us who are experiencing career upheavals on our journey to emerge stronger when we return to more normal times,” reflected Alan. “It is also reassuring to see course mates starting from a more basic foundation overcoming huge challenges on their learning journey to achieve the course objectives and receive their certifications.”

But apart from his new skills, the biggest takeaway he has gained from his learning experience was simply the renewed self confidence that it was possible for him to grow and improve.

“Realising that I have the capacity to adapt, and that there are opportunities and infrastructure available for me to learn has been the most positive aspect. It gives me confidence knowing that I won’t be left behind, and motivates me to take on training courses at higher levels. All of these can only be a plus in my professional as well as personal development!” shared Alan.

Preparing for the Future

Armed with fresh skills and perspectives, Alan seeks to draw on new and improved business strategies to ensure his business is ready for the post-COVID world once the tourism industry recovers. These plans centre around upping his game – offering better value propositions and devising more sophisticated, audience-centric tour programmes.

Self-development is certainly a never-ending journey for Alan. Having recovered from one pandemic in the past, Alan is certain we can all get through this current tough time as well. To encourage others in the same predicament as him, Alan offers up these words of advice:

“Don’t be afraid to move forward, learn, and get the training that you need by making full use of all the resources out there. Being engaged in learning while you are on the lookout for new opportunities is a very effective way to keep your spirits up as you are doing something constructive for yourself. And most of all, stay positive!”

Since 2004, NTUC LearningHub has upskilled over 21,000 organisations and achieved over 2.5 million training places across more than 500 courses with a pool of over 400 certified trainers. We are the leading Continuing Education and Training provider in Singapore and we are here to transform your lifelong employability.

For more information on how we can help, visit our Virtual Roadshow or talk to our friendly Course Consultants by reserving a Virtual Live Advisory appointment today.


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